As you will see from Nicole’s feature, she is passionate about helping people...making a difference. Nicole describes herself as a writer, advocate, collaborator, traveller, story-teller, and social artist. I definitely feel that those words all fit her well. She really started on this path as a senior in high school, and naturally moved forward from there. Nicole has a goal of changing the stigma around homelessness, and hosts Community Art Days twice a year (November and March) to help facilitate that change. These Days are a way for volunteers and homeless artists to create together, rather than homeless artists solely being provided something. Volunteers work alongside homeless artists in music, theatre, creative writing, and visual art (collaborative art) projects, and come away with more of an appreciation for each other’s place in life. We have different experiences that inform our stories in unique ways, but deep down, we are all the same. Yes, Nicole is definitely a social artist.
Nicole started the Poverty & the Arts programs in 2011, and currently connects with Turnip Green Creative Reuse to provide homeless artists with free access to a studio. When artists sell their work, 75% of the proceeds go to the artist, and 25% to the studio. In providing this value to the artists, Nicole not only gives them a way to be creative, but also help themselves. She is currently looking into ways to help the artists further by providing a way to sell their works online. Also, in November, there will again be an option to sponsor new and returning artists in the Adopt a Homeless Artist program!
There is an exciting event on the horizon - the Poverty & the Arts Gala on Saturday, September 20. The event is designed to “raise awareness of our mission, as well as donations for our programs and operational funding.” Artwork by artists in the Adopt a Homeless Artist program will be featured: there will be three artists featured, and artwork by two of them is shown below. You will have a chance to own that artwork through a silent auction. Along with the art will be hors d’oeuvres, wine (2 complimentary drink tickets), and music by The Bill Alexson Trio. What a great opportunity to spend time with like-minded people, and make a positive difference at the same time! I am so grateful to Nicole for being a change-maker - what an asset to Nashville.
Kateri and Sam's Work
What inspires you most?
Passionate people. I love watching people go after their dreams. As someone who started a nonprofit while in college, I love seeing my friends and colleagues in the arts and design community pursuing their dreams and fighting for what they believe in. Nashville is an incredible place because I am surrounded by creatives that inspire me.
What turns you on creatively?
Innovative ideas and unique solutions. As an activist and social artist, I see the arts as a way to promote social justice and progress within a community. I love when I hear about a unique program or social justice solution. It motivates me to dream and collaborate with fellow creatives about ways to make our community and world a better place. Again, it’s people and their passions that drive my creativity.
Do you have any gratefulness practices?
I work with the homeless, so my mind is constantly being pulled from wanting more to having enough. When I am really struggling with my family or financial situations (because I’m a recent graduate running a start-up), I just remember the faces and conversations of the people I work with. Our homeless artists are some of the most generous and grateful people I know, and their lives are littered with hardship, struggle, and fear in ways I have never had to know.
Do you enjoy collaborating, or prefer to work alone?
In my work, collaboration is key. We’ve been able to build and sustain ourselves because of the help and support of our incredible community partners. Room in the Inn and Turnip Green Creative Reuse are our biggest partnerships; however, we’ve also partnered with Metro Arts, the Arts & Business Council, Belmont University, Tennessee State University, Public Nashville, Nossi College of Art, Kaleidoscope Nashville, and more! Our goal is to connect to the Nashville-at-large community.
In my own brainstorming and implementation of Poverty & the Arts, I love working with creative minds that can help build and execute my overall vision. In an ideal world I would have an entire staff/team devoted towards collaborating on projects and programs.
Is it important for you to have a creative, inspiring environment?
Yes. I am incredibly visually stimulated, and place is very important. I typically work from coffee shops; however, my most innovative and creative ideas come when I’m surrounded by 1. people and 2. a unique environment that I don’t find myself in everyday. (That could be a park, studio, new coffee shop, etc)
Do you plan thoroughly for projects, or go with the flow?
Having the role of an arts administrator requires me to plan thoroughly for my projects because they inevitably involve many different people with many different functions. It is important to have an entire project planned if I hope to bring other people on board. However, I’m extremely flexible and understand that there will be bumps and changes along the way.
Do you utilize social media? If so, how?
I have been trying to utilize social media more. We have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. We try to post things happening in both the Nashville and national arts community, as well as what’s happening with the homeless community on a national level. Ideally, I would love to build an online community of supporters and volunteers so that we can connect both in person and online.
What is your typical day like?
My day to day life is extremely diverse and flexible. I have a part-time job doing sales for a company that designs interactive science exhibits for museums, zoos, botanical gardens, etc. I work remotely for a company (TechnoFrolics) based out of Boston, MA. Working this job gives me the flexibility to attend workshops, meetings, and programs for Poverty & the Arts. A typical day consists of Poverty & the Arts meetings (these take place at coffee shops, studios, offices, co-working spaces, etc), working on Poverty & the Arts alone at a coffee shop, and then working on TechnoFrolics for a few hours. I am also usually meeting with my homeless artists and working with them in the studio provided by Turnip Green Creative Reuse.
Do you believe art can change the world? If so, how?
I completely believe that art has the potential to change the world. For an individual, art has the power to restore self-worth, build confidence, and see the world through a different lens. As a society, art can stimulate the economy and tourism, bring beauty and creativity to poorer areas, and provide a space where the rich and the poor can create together, rather than typical us versus them service opportunities. This equal space is essential in breaking down stereotypes about homelessness by allowing volunteers to see the homeless as creative and talented individuals, which in turn builds better and more educated advocates for zoning and housing policies. It is important to use creatives to influence policy-makers and laws.
Do you believe that connecting with your creativity, or helping others to do so, can positively affect the world? If so, how?
Definitely. See above.
Do you surround yourself on a daily basis with creative, inspiring people?
Yes, I love surrounding myself with creative people. My boyfriend is a musician, my friends are visual artists, jewelry-makers, curators, bloggers, poets, song-writers, the list goes on. I find that I am most drawn to creative people and their passion for the world.
What effect do you want your art to have on the world?
I want my art to bring people together, build relationships with people from different walks of life, and bridge the gap between the rich and poor. I also want to give all types of people an opportunity to participate in the arts.
What music, if any, plays while you work? What are you listening to at this very moment?
Do you have any advice for aspiring creatives?
Surround yourself with likeminded people that have passion and vision. Having people that can motivate, encourage, push, and challenge you will be essential in growing as a creative, and as an individual.
Do you have any upcoming projects/collections to share?
Our Poverty & the Arts Gala will be September 20th from 6-8pm.